The Minnesota Wild came on strong late in the season to earn a playoff spot, but they’ve got plenty of work to do in the off-season if they want to get back there next year.
Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher spoke to reporters Thursday at an end-of-season news conference where he was asked about whether or not the team will buy out struggling winger Thomas Vanek.
“I think it’s way premature on that,” Fletcher said. “I thought Thomas in October and November was arguably our best forward – or certainly played as well as anybody on our team. He seemed to lose confidence. But I thought he really shot the puck well and did a lot of great things early.”
Vanek scored 18 goals in 74 games this season, the lowest total of his NHL career and the first time he failed to hit the 20-goal plateau – he even managed to score 20 in 38 games during the lockout-shorted 2013 season.
He went goalless in his final 14 games and an injury prevented him from suiting up in the playoffs. The Wild were eliminated by the Dallas Stars in six games.
“He’s a goal scorer and we need to find a way to score more goals,” Fletcher added. “Our cap situation is much better this year. We’re just looking to improve our team. Whatever we need to do to improve our team, we’ll do. But I’m probably a couple weeks away [from deciding on Vanek’s future]. It’d be great if we could figure out the cap and figure out that information to see exactly how much room we have. But I’m much more comfortable with our flexibility this year than last year. It’s going to give us more options.”
Vanek is under contract for one more season before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. His salary cap hit is $6.5 million and he has a no-movement clause.